A performance filled with passion, commitment and desire is always great to see and that’s exactly what we got last weekend… from Norwich City Women in their Carrow Road debut against Ashford Town.

Eastern Daily Press: Young fans loved Norwich City Women's team appearance at Carrow RoadYoung fans loved Norwich City Women's team appearance at Carrow Road (Image: Angela Sharpe)

That historic fixture had a crowd of well over 7,000 captivated throughout, with the game ebbing and flowing in entertaining style as the Canaries ran out 5-3 winners and, hopefully, won over many new fans for the women’s game.

It was a real step forward for women’s football in Norfolk and the fact that so many young girls were watching with their families augurs well for the future of the game in this part of the country. While misogynists may sneer, the momentum generated by the achievements of the Lionesses last summer is not only being maintained but is accelerating.

Unfortunately, Sunday’s experience was the antithesis of what we saw on Friday night as City slid to a pusillanimous defeat at the Riverside Stadium in a performance that was an insult to the 600 brave souls who had made the long trip north to support them.

Once again, a decent start produced no end product, but what was really concerning was the total capitulation in the closing minutes of the first half which ended the game as a contest.

Of course, there are injuries to key players, and the fans understand that, but they have a basic right to expect to see players fighting to the end, and that simply didn’t happen at Middlesbrough.

As David Wagner pointed out in his press conference on Tuesday, it’s all well and good for players to apologise to the fans on social media, but the place to do their talking is on the pitch, where City were worryingly silent on Friday.

The Teesside debacle should really have effectively sounded the death knell for City’s play-off hopes, and probably would have had Blackburn not dropped points at home to Hull. But, amazingly, City went to Loftus Road on Wednesday night still just two points outside the top six, with the fact that they had comprehensively beaten two of the sides between them and the play-off spots, Preston and Coventry, on their own grounds illustrating just what a bizarre Championship season this has been.

Surely this time, having blown so many chances to get into the play-off spots, and up against a side desperately battling relegation, City would produce the convincing winning performance that would rekindle belief amongst their long-suffering fans.

Conceding another goal within the opening 10 minutes, as at Middlesbrough, was hardly the perfect start, and things didn’t really improve from there, despite Adam Idah’s equaliser, as the game degenerated into a free-for-all with both sides resorting to hoofball in the final half hour without either really looking like breaking the deadlock.

Since Daniel Farke’s sacking (and I’m not suggesting that was an incorrect decision) we have seen a slow decline from the vibrant passing football that defined Norwich City for several seasons into a characterless mishmash of tactics and formations.

Dean Smith was justifiably castigated for producing unattractive football that lacked any real defining style, and for a brief spell Wagner seemed to be moving the club back to something more akin to Farke’s original approach, but that has now been lost and the team is looking like what it is, a mid-table side lacking any form of X factor.

Losing key players like Grant Hanley and Kenny McLean hasn’t helped and the injury to Kieran Dowell has removed goals and creativity from the midfield, but Wagner will have his work cut out to produce a squad capable of mounting a promotion push next season in a league that surely cannot be as weak as it has been this season.

And yet, having said that, the shortcomings of others means that a play-off place is still achievable. It’s the hope that kills you.